For ASPI’s 2019 conference, ‘War in 2025’, I was asked to identify the geopolitical realities that will shape the world of that year. Here I outline some of the strategic constants which—barring major catastrophes—will still most likely be in place in six years’ time.
Five years ago, the leaders of Egypt’s protest movement shocked themselves by successfully bringing down President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power since before many of them were born. In those days, it was not unusual to hear talk of a new dawn for Egyptian politics and the Arab world. It is difficult to find many leaders of that movement who are so cheerful today. And their disappointment is broadly shared in academic, policy, and media circles around the world. Young and disaffected Egyptians, the story goes, revolted against a stultified regime and demanded a democratic government, a freer society, and more economic rights. They won the battle but lost the war, as the military, initially along with the Muslim Brotherhood and later without it, gained the upper hand and defeated the revolutionaries.
But there is a very different way to tell the story of 2011. This tale is not one of high but disappointed hope, but one of threatened chaos and rescue. From the perspective of Egypt’s security institutions—its military, police, and intelligence forces—the uprising threatened to bring down not only Egypt’s president but its entire social and political order. Averting such an outcome was an arduous task, one that the Egyptian armed forces still see themselves as undertaking.
The internal functioning of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’th Party, its relations with Iraq’s military and its resiliency remain poorly understood. However, Joseph Sassoon’s Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime sets out to change this. His meticulous study of “liberated” archives – now housed at Stanford University and the University of Colorado – offers a unique insight into Saddam Hussein’s regime that challenges the dominant theories used to explain how he and his party consolidated power.
Rewards and Punishment
From the outset, Sassoon is adamant that the Ba’th Party used rewards and punishment as a strategy to recruit Iraqis into the party apparatus. By 2002, it was estimated that 17% of the population were party members, although the majority of these were in the lower ranks. Their reasons for joining were varied. Whereas some truly believed in the Ba’athist ideology, others were placed under incessant pressure and ideological indoctrination. In return, party members became enmeshed in an intricate system of rewards that ranged from public employment to becoming a “Friend of Saddam Hussein”.